Madison City Council Must Rise Above Alders Sara Eskrich And Mark Clear In Budget Votes

We have seen our fair share of ‘I can’t believe it’ moments over the past week.  But the election is over and while the nation and state are in chaos Madison should be able to operate in a more reasonable fashion.  Right?

The Madison City Council will undertake the never pleasant task of shaping the next budget when it meets on Tuesday.  The capital and operating budgets are always filled with some intrigue and unpleasantness.   But what unfolded late last week was just plain off-the-rails.

Alderperson Sara Eskrich landed a punch to common-sense when she proposed an amendment to undo the Downtown infrastructure projects such as surveillance cameras, streetscaping and street repaving.   Those projects would come from TIF district funding.    She has tried to make it sound as if tax payers are coming out on the short end of the deal by having TIF dollars used for needed projects.  That thinking is simply wrong.

As I have noted time and again on this blog I very much approve of government funding which stirs and promotes other economic investments.  I trust those in power at this time to make the best decisions.

It probably comes as no surprise that many, including Mayor Paul Soglin and City Council President Mike Verveer, are not at all enamored by this late development.  Since there is nothing that any reasonable person would object to with the proposed projects being funded from this source one then has to ask what political ax is Eskrich trying to grind?

If that were the only awful amendment up for debate we could just be amused at the above and move on.  But no, there is another unexplainable idea, but this time from someone who should know better.

Alderperson Mark Clear who looks less able as time moves along to ever resemble a credible candidate for mayor has offered to delay Madison Municipal Building renovations for one year, moving $26.1 million in borrowing to 2018. The reason this amendment is just plain wrong from the start is that the work, in part, is already underway.  Many of the 200 employees have already been moved out of the 100-year-old Municipal Building.  The work needs to be done and by waiting the costs will only mount.

First the rental costs for office space should a delay take place will cost an extra $660,000.   The cost increase to the project itself would be at least $92,000.  That is real money, Alder Clear!

Just this week as James and I walked with a friend to dinner on State Street we were talking about the new location for the downtown post office. None of these moves for the renovation was fun or easy.  It places burdens on employees and residents alike.   Therefore, it is sheer lunacy to think it wise or acceptable to play games with budgeting in the fashion that Clear is attempting with this historic building.

I am one of those who actually watch–from the comfort of home–the marathon budget sessions of the council.  There are always those things we hope to see prevail in the final package, and others that need to be jettisoned.  There is simply no way that any alder could sincerely vote for either of the above two amendments without explaining what backstory drove them to cast such a vote.  That will be worth staying up late for all by itself.

“The Boys In The Boat” Is Tonic For Soul Following Election

This was a bruising, sad, and dispiriting election year. Following the outcome I needed something to change the focus and lift my spirits.  I needed a new book.

Off to my favorite local store I went and almost by design I was pulled to The Boys in The Boat by Daniel James Brown.  I promise you—if you have not already read it—there is a message of promise and hope written with such a powerful narrative that you too will be telling others to read it.

Nine young college-age men from Depression era America join the rowing team at University of Washington and defeat Hitler’s team in Berlin in  the 1936  Olympics.  I can personally feel some of the angst of Joe Rantz who seems not to fit in and then comes into his own in a powerful way.

You need not know much about rowing—or even an interest in the sport–to pick this book up.  There is the sweep of history as you are there with Hitler as he plans his stadium and with sports journalists who write about these inspiring young men.  And the writing—it always comes down to great writing—and Brown makes one feel the slate skies of Washington and cold water and aching muscles.

This book makes America one again.    And we need it.  I certainly did.  Just trust me—read the first chapter and…..we need this.


Does Donald Trump Say The Things YOU Think?

Neal Gabler nails it.

If there is a single sentence that characterizes the election, it is this: “He says the things I’m thinking.” That may be what is so terrifying. Who knew that so many tens of millions of white Americans were thinking unconscionable things about their fellow Americans? Who knew that tens of millions of white men felt so emasculated by women and challenged by minorities? Who knew that after years of seeming progress on race and gender, tens of millions of white Americans lived in seething resentment, waiting for a demagogue to arrive who would legitimize their worst selves and channel them into political power? Perhaps we had been living in a fool’s paradise. Now we aren’t.

This country has survived a civil war, two world wars, and a great depression. There are many who say we will survive this, too. Maybe we will, but we won’t survive unscathed. We know too much about each other to heal. No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things. Nor can we pretend that democracy works and that elections have more or less happy endings. Democracy only functions when its participants abide by certain conventions, certain codes of conduct and a respect for the process.

Fat Man Out

The New York Post reports a story that is just heartening to read.  After the shallow performance as national boot-licker to Donald Trump over the past months I am SOOOO glad to see this news item.

President-elect Donald Trump is so disgusted with Chris Christie’s handling of the Bridgegate scandal that he’s kicking the New Jersey Gov. out of his inner circle.   

Said one source close to the transition team: “Trump thought it was shameful that Christie didn’t take the fall for [convicted aide] Bridget Kelly. Trump is really angry that Christie is sending a soccer mom to jail. He believes 100 percent that Christie was behind it all.”

SNL: Most Touching Rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by Hillary Clinton


Lack Of Message Hurt Hillary Clinton

As noted often on this blog I thought the lack of message from the Hillary Clinton campaign was a mistake.  While I could write a lead paragraph on what Donald Trump stood for in the election it was harder to place the parts of Clinton’s hopes for America in the same format.  She clearly had her policy goals but was not able to present then in a manner most easily understood by the voters.

Elizabeth Drew reports.

Throughout the campaign, blinders kept most of us from taking aboard a lot of what we were seeing: Hillary Clinton wasn’t giving people a reason to vote for her. ‘Stronger together’ meant what? It’s been reported that for much of the fall Bill Clinton worried that the leaders of his wife’s campaign were too fixated on their supposedly fearsome get-out-the-vote drive and were failing to craft a coherent message for her, and he chewed on the staff about this. Why Hillary Clinton didn’t develop a message is a puzzle. The reconstructions to come of her campaign should tell us why.